Education - Page 4 - Expanding skills with leadership programs

- Page 4
Expanding skills with leadership programs
Working with companies provides real work experiences

By Linda L. Esterson, Contributing Writer

For the last five years, Kirstin Herman has worked as a mechanical engineer for NAVAIR. Following her 2014 graduation from the University of Maryland, she found herself wanting to fill her free time with educational activities. She considered different avenues, including a master’s degree in engineering, and decided an MBA was “a more suitable option thinking long-term for a management position.”

Her investigation led to a hybrid program at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business that provides graduate coursework with flexibility to enroll part-time and maintain full-time employment. A member of the Washington, D.C., Saturday cohort, Herman attends classes on alternate Saturdays for about 10 hours. The alternate weeks feature online assignments, discussion boards and group projects.

One group endeavor was a consulting project for a jewelry company in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Introduction to Growth Opportunities in an Emerging Market; Doing Business in Brazil course.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the culture,” says Herman of working with a Brazilian business.“ The fact that it’s an emerging market shows there’s a lot of opportunity for growth. And that was really appealing to me.”

Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School offers several MBA courses that include an international component. According to Paulo Prochno, Ph.D., professor and assistant dean for part-time and online MBA programs at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, global business courses open to second- and third-year students offer instruction and travel to Brazil, China and Vietnam, Japan and Singapore, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

Students complete coursework throughout the fall, learning about doing business in the country of study and dealing with institutional differences.

The course culminates in a week-long trip to that particular country in January. Up to 150 students enroll to visit one of the six countries in a given year.

“Our idea is to provide themwith the ability to interact cross culturally,” says Prochno.“Regardless of the specific destination or the specific country [the ability to interact cross culturally] would also apply to working in teams with multicultural people and that is going to be the situation that they will face working in the U.S. as well.”

Through the course, students consult with owners of an incubator business via conference calls and email, gathering information on their marketing, finance and accounting efforts. Upon traveling to Rio de Janeiro, students meet the business owners in person and present their findings and recommendations. Herman’s project incorporated an audit of social media platforms used in marketing the products, collecting data secured through Google analytics and researching consumer behavior in Brazil to determine ways to better market the business, she explains.

Nearly a year later, Herman still follows the social media accounts and can see that the business owner has incorporated some of the group’s suggestions. She reflects on experiencing Brazilian culture, learning about the political climate, but most importantly, having the opportunity to work with an actual business.

“It also showed me where I want to take my MBA career,” she says. “So even though I work in engineering, I realized from this experience that I really enjoyed the marketing side of the MBA program.”

The trip also includes visits to other companies throughout the country, enabling students to learn more about business operations and relate to the concepts learned in the coursework.

“It’s an opportunity to apply their MBA knowledge to the situation,which is usually a complex situation,” Prochno adds. “The problems are not necessarily neatly defined as it is in case studies that we use in our courses. It’s a great opportunity for students.”

Loyola University of Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management also offers a course within its MBA program that includes a travel component. Customer Experience Management: The Disney Study Tour, developed by professors Rick Klink, Ph.D., and Jason Zhang, Ph.D., is an elective offered through the redeveloped Professional’s MBA that focuses on the practice of designing and managing customer interactions to exceed customer expectations, according to the course website. The course, originally offered for undergraduates, was modified and condensed for the graduate program last spring and culminates in a week-long trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The course provides background in the importance of company culture, leadership and strategic direction, and evaluates the customer’s journey with an organization from pre-purchase to postpurchase including the delivery of customer interactions, which has become a focus in the current marketplace.

“The economy has evolved over time and we went from a commodity-based economy into production and services, and now we’re really moving toward staging experiences for customers,” says Klink. “Firms are competing on this.”

Disney has been in the forefront of the focus on customer experience, dating back decades, and recent studies suggest leading businesses are following suit.

In customer experience consulting firmWalker Information’s Customers 2020: A Progress Report, statistics indicate that 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience and by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Following three three-hour sessions, students travel to Orlando and meet with Disney personnel to learn about essential areas of the organization like marketing, culture, human resources, and leadership, as well as the organization’s four keys to the customer experience: safety, courtesy, show and efficiency.

Students are immersed in all things Disney during the week-long trip, with group dinners and lodging on property, and a small amount of free time in the theme parks as they experience Disney as customers themselves.

Also last spring, Stevenson University graduated its first class of students earning a master’s degree in community-based education and leadership preparing them to be community leaders in local areas.

There is an increasing demand in the community to prepare managers for non-formal

Leadership, continued on page 7